Posterior Cruciate Ligament Injury (PCL)

Overview

Definition

A posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) injury is a partial or full tear of the tough band of fibers that connects the thigh bone to the shin bone.

Posterior Cruciate Ligament
si55550644 97870 1 Posterior Cruciate Ligament
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Causes

PCL injury is caused by excess force on the knee. This may be from:

  • A direct blow to the knee
  • Twisting the knee
  • Falling on a bent knee

Risk Factors

Some sports may raise the risk of this injury, such as football and soccer. Being in a motor vehicle accident may also raise the risk.

SymptomsandDiagnosis

Symptoms

An injury to the PCL may cause:

  • Pain and swelling in the knee
  • Soreness in the area behind the knee
  • Weakness or instability in the knee
  • Problems walking
  • Pain when moving the knee

Diagnosis

The doctor will ask about your symptoms, health history, and how the injury happened. A physical exam will be done. It will focus on the knee.

The doctor may suspect a PCL injury based on symptoms. Images may be done to confirm it. This can be done with:

  • X-ray
  • MRI scan
  • Ultrasound

Treatments

Treatment

The PCL does not heal on its own. The goal is to ease pain and improve movement. This may be done with:

  • Ice and rest to ease pain and swelling
  • Medicine to ease pain and swelling
  • Exercises to stretch and strengthen the muscles around the knee
  • A brace to keep the knee from moving
  • Crutches to take weight off of the leg

Some people may need surgery. It will remake the PCL with tissue from other areas of the body or from donor tissue.

Prevention

The risk of an ACL injury may be lowered by stretching and strengthening the muscles around the knee and in the front of your thigh.

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.

Edits to original content made by Denver Health.

a (PCL Tear)

RESOURCES

American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine http://www.sportsmed.org 

OrthoInfo—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons http://orthoinfo.org 

CANADIAN RESOURCES

Canadian Orthopaedic Association http://www.coa-aco.org 

Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation http://www.canorth.org 

References

Ligament injuries to the knee. John Hopkins Medicine website. Available at. http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/healthlibrary/conditions/adult/orthopaedic%5Fdisorders/ligament%5Finjuries%5Fto%5Fthe%5Fknee%5F85,P00926. Accessed March 30, 2020.

Posterior cruciate ligament injuries. Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at: http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00420. Updated February 2009. Accessed March 30, 2020.